Launching a continuous improvement program

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Leadership and Motivational Business Speaker, author,

Today, the biggest challenges in most organizations are maintaining their competitive edge while at the same time demonstrating to their customers their ability to make relevant improvements on a regular and consistent basis. To successfully meet these challenges, requires or demands change!

Complicating these challenges is the fact that everyone from the board room, to the production floor and to the mailroom (do they still have those?) has a difficult time overcoming the fear of change. Many of us have a natural tendency to avoid anything that requires change. The result is any efforts to continuously improve are stalled right from the beginning. Fear of failure also factors into this dynamic because no one wants to make a mistake or look bad.

A friend, Robert Brands, (who recently passed away) wrote extensively on Innovation. In fact, he was known as the Innovation Coach. In one of his articles, Bob wrote “according to John Kotter, Innovation does not come out of a controlled situation. “If you want more innovation, allow more chaos”. Innovation cannot be created by delegating, prescribing, or forcing it”

For any effort directed towards continuous improvement or innovation to succeed, your employees must feel that their suggestions, etc. are genuinely wanted and in fact encouraged. They must willingly take ownership in the future of their organization – continuous improvement is everyone’s responsibility.

Robert, took it a step forward, when he wrote- “Ownership is one of the key imperatives of Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Most would agree that innovation is everyone’s responsibility, but employees can’t innovate unless their leaders empower them to do so”.

From my client coaching experience, here are several simple initiatives you could launch to create an environment where the focus on continuous improvement happens every day by every employee:

  •     Use what I refer to as my “study your game films” approach – at the end every important project, regardless of the outcome as your team the following – based upon the outcome and what we know now, if we had to do this again, what would we start doing; stop doing; do more of or do less of? This simple process insures that you learn something from every event to make you better the next time.
  •     Most employees know what they must do; when to do it and how to do it. Many do not know why they do it; who they do it for and where it fits in to the total picture. Armed with the “why, who and where” they are better able to identify and suggest ways to improve whet they do resulting in a better result companywide.
  •     Start meeting with small groups of your team members on a regular basis to actively solicit their feedback on how their work is produced – start with only one question – what’s one thing we can do “today’ to produce a better result “tomorrow”. Take the same approach with your better customers. They have a lot to offer so long as you ask and show them that you sincerely want their feedback.
  •     Don’t let the damaging effect of mistakes or failure get in the way – there will always be rough times – demonstrate to your team by your own actions that mistakes are part of business and offer an excellent opportunity to learn how to do things better
  •     I urge my clients to schedule a 1 hour meeting with themselves each week to give them the time to evaluate important strategic issues. Why not dedicate 1 or 2 of these meetings each month to identify and act on tasks that support continuous improvement?
  •     At the end of every staff meeting ask “what’s one thing we could do better?” Once an idea is identified, ask the person who suggested it to “own” that project. This encourages feedback and empowers your team members to take ownership in the continuous improvement effort.

Take a chance; engage your team in this effort. There is no downside.